Friday, August 07, 2009

Character Building

"Could you describe the ruckus?" - Anthony Michael Hall in "The Breakfast Club"
The word "iconic" is being thrown around a lot in the wake of John Huhges' death. I'm not exactly certain what they mean. Does that mean the man himself was iconic? More likely they mean the characters that he created. The ruckus you are hearing is America coming to terms with their relationship to the work of the eighties auteur.
For myself, I openly admit to having a love/hate relationship with the guy. I loved "Sixteen Candles." It was a staple at the video store I worked at, and there is very little of the dialogue that isn't committed to memory by me and the rest of the staff. I have a special affinity for "Weird Science," partly because it featured a theme song by Oingo Boingo and mostly because my older brother and I snuck into a showing just after seeing a free preview of "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure." It was a mind-bending orgy of mid-eighties entertainment. Later we went out and chugged some nachos.
The hate part is pretty straightforward too. While I was watching "Breakfast Club," I felt connected to these teen angst archetypes, but when I walked out of the theatre, I felt completely manipulated. It made me suspicious of all of John Hughes' movies after that. The need to tie everything up in a nice package at the end. It made me appreciate movies like "Last American Virgin," with its complex and bitter denouement. In my twenties, I began to resent this man for painting a picture of adolescence that was prettier than my own. And speaking of "pretty," when I heard that he changed the ending of "Pretty in Pink" because test audiences wanted Molly Ringwald to end up with Prince Andrew McCarthy instead of Jon Cryer's Duckie, the scales fell from my eyes. When I was dragged to "Some Kind of Wonderful" by some girls who were "just good friends" instead of going to a club to see Cheap Trick, I was done.
That didn't mean that I was done watching John Hughes films. I worked in a video store. There was no escape in the 1980's. And I confess that I never got over that initial love. The one that started with his short story for National Lampoon: "Vacation '58." In it, he told the story of every road trip my family ever took in our family's station wagon. When the film was made, many of the sad and scary elements remained, and Chevy Chase made his last, great contribution to film with his portrayal of patriarch Clark Griswold. Clark was my father. Maybe he was everybody's father. Now my John and my dad can talk it over on long, winding trips across the desert southwest in a metallic-pea "Wagon Queen Family Truckster."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Some Kind of Wonderful" instead of Cheap Trick? Oh my god.